Cover image: Asalha Puja / Dharma Day

Asalha Puja / Dharma Day

Day celebrating the beginning of the Buddha's teaching.

Updated 4 months ago

About the event 

This day is celebrated by Theravadan Buddhists in commemoration of the Buddha's first sermon. Known as the ‘Sermon in the Deer Park’, this is considered to be the first time the Buddha outlined his key teachings (known as ‘the Dharma’) including the ‘four noble truths’ and the ‘eightfold path’. Dharma Day is seen as an opportunity for Buddhists to show their gratitude to the Buddha and to listen to sermons from Buddist teachers. 

How to approach it

As always an opportunity to recognise the importance of this celebration with Buddist students at the same time as introducing Buddhism and Dharma day to other members of your class. If you can, see if any Buddist students would like to explain what the day means to them and how they celebrate it. If not, you could choose to engage your students with the story of the Buddah as outlined for our Buddha Day page.

From here you could outline the key teachings as celebrated on Dharma Day. For example, the four noble truths are: 

  • Suffering exists
  • The route of this suffering is desire
  • If we let go of desire we can stop suffering
  • There is a way to do this, through the eightfold path.

Use this as a conversation starter and as an exercise that develops reasoning skills. These concepts can be a challenge for anyone and so the objective here is to join with your students in discussion about what these things could mean, whether we agree with them and whether they are useful. Encourage your students to approach this thinking with an open mind, help them articulate their own responses and to understand the responses of others. 

In a similar way, you could explore the ‘eightfold path’ which is loosely: 

  • Having the right worldview
  • Having the right intentions
  • Speaking in the right way
  • Acting in the right way
  • Having the right livelihood
  • Putting in the right effort
  • Practising mindfulness
  • Practising Samadhi or ‘meditative focus’

Ask students: what would living the eightfold path look like? What does each section actually mean? What would the world look like if people followed this? Would you add anything to the list?

Conversation starter

After an intense period of introspection, the Buddha reached what Buddhists call 'enlightenment'. This day celebrates the point at which the Buddha began to teach others about what he had learned. What do you know about the Buddha's teachings? What interests you? If you could, what teachings would you add?